Game Design


I know I’ve made a bunch of people nervous about my research topic. The fact of the matter is, it’s taken a backseat to all the other portions of the game. The professors ask me about it, and I nod and smile and say something to the effect of, “It’s coming along…” and then I quickly change the subject. In truth, I’ve been thinking about it, and mulling it over, but have been lacking on the whole implementation side of things … until now!

We are in the midst of a transitional period as far as display devices go. Some folks play their Xbox games on a 480i Standard Definition television (I pity them). Others have brand new expensive shiny 1080p High Definition televisions (those rich mother-shmuppers…). In addition, there are the somewhat more / somewhat less fortunate folks with a 720p set, as well as several outliers who use HDMI / VGA cables and go to a computer monitor that displays goodness knows what resolution. The point is, there exists a myriad of different display devices to which the Xbox can render.

As a game designer/developer, I want my game to look great regardless of what the end user’s display resolution happens to be. At the same time, I don’t want to take the time to design for every single resolution. Yes, the Xbox does automatically scale content from 1280×720 (a middle-resolution of 720p) up or down to match whatever output resolution it detects – but if the user isn’t viewing at 720p the result can (to a picky eye) look blurred or fuzzy. The XNA Creators Club recommends this practice, but I know we can do better. This is the motivation behind my research.

This evening (well, it’s morning now), I have successfully created a system for our game that detects the current resolution, and adjusts content to fit for perceptual congruity across display resolutions. The images below show the same build of our game as output to 480i and 1080i resolutions. Notice how similar the proportions of the logo image and text are relative to each example. Yes, I know there’s extra space to the left and right of the 1080i example, but that’s to be expected for a widescreen aspect ratio. Using this system, our players will be equally capable of reading the menus – regardless of screen resolution! It works!

COWER IN FEAR, PUNY MORTALS, AT THE AWESOME POWER THAT IS THE BOSS. THE BOSS COMMANDS THAT THIS BLOG POST BE RENDERED IN ALL-CAPS AND IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT, WELL, TOUGH NOOGIES—THE BOSS WILL JUST BLOW YOU UP!!!!!

WITNESS THE BOSS IN ALL HIS MAGNIFICENT GLORY. TREMBLE BEFORE HIS LASER EYE MONOCLE. PROSTRATE YOURSELF IN HUMILITY BENEATH HIS MASSIVE CHEST CANNONS. PRAY THAT THE BOSS SPARES YOU FROM HIS HAMMER AND MACE SWINGY-THINGY OF DOOM!!!!!!!

STILL STANDING? INSOLENT FOOLS. YOU HAD BETTER RUN AWAY IN TERROR, LEST THE BOSS UNLEASH THE FURY OF HIS ROCKET FIST. MAY A SALVO OF A HUNDRED MISSILES FALL UPON YOU!!!!!!!!!

DO NOT TEMPT THE BOSS. DO NOT FOLD, SPINDLE, OR MUTILATE. HE WILL NOT HESITATE TO FIRE HIS GIANT LASERINATOR, SEND FORTH A SWARM OF DRONES, OR FIRE UP THE WHEEL OF DANMAKU!!!!!!!!!!!

SHMUP YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This won’t be a very long post, considering we’re “Springing Ahead” with the clocks this evening. Yuck. I like “Falling Back” much better.

This afternoon I designed out the homepage for shmupyou.com. The image below shows what the landing page might look like when that site goes live. It very quickly establishes a visual theme, and briefly describes the game, the site, and the team.

The final version of shmupyou.com will be a community site for our players to go and report scores, view rankings, submit codes, track awards, and discuss the game and strategies in forums. This adds another experience outside of gameplay and further establishes the Shmup You! “brand.”Shmup You! Homepage Design

It took me a little while, but I’ve finally got the box art “inked” to a point that I’m happy with it. Having the Olympics on the television has not helped my productivity. I find myself vegging out frequently during the afternoons and evenings, then working late into the evening to (or very early morning, as the case is today!). I’m happy that Chinese couple won the Gold for pairs figure skating… anyway, back to business!

The composition includes the game logo, shooter, and boss, along with lots of missiles, bullets, lasers and explosions. Admittedly, there could easily be more missiles involved, but I’d like to see how this turns out before we add more. You folks get to see our boss design here for the first time, I hope you like it!

In making this, I wanted to be sure to draw the viewer’s eye around the piece. Leading the eye well can give a sense of motion within a static piece of art. The color will affect where the eye begins, but I made  a visual path leading to and from all four main elements (logo, boss, shooter and explosion). My original sketch (which I should get to uploading over break) had the explosion to fill the space in the lower right, but didn’t show the cause of the explosion. This design adds the path of the missile that caused the explosion, which conveniently leads us up through the logo and back down to the boss.

I also needed to get a sense of depth. The shooter in the foreground is much closer to the view than the boss, who needs to be further away (because he’s enormous!) so we can get a good look at him.  The exchange of fire leads the eye deeper into the piece, and the convergence of the shooter’s fire towards the boss’ abdomen along with the scale differences in the missiles further communicate depth.

It’s worth noting that I used the term “inking” very loosely here. If I were to ink this for real, I would have paid much more attention to the thickness and dynamics of my lines (and it would have taken me months!). As it is now my stroke weights are almost all the same, and for good reason: I’m handing this file off to Kelley so she can stroke and color it up all pretty. Kelley has a great talent for illustration, and is much more practiced at varying the line weight to make an even more dramatic visual effect. In this case, we’re playing our strengths, distributing the work, and coming up with a stronger piece than either of us could have managed individually.

My tummy’s rumbling, so I think it’s time to grab some breakfast. Here’s the box art! (obviously it’ll be cropped to a rectangle when we submit it for real – but I like breaking the frame!) Enjoy!

I was working on drawing up some box art for the game, and the perspective of the tail fins of our Shooter’s ship was giving me difficulties. If you don’t believe me, you try drawing a fighter-jet’s fins from an awkward angle and from memory … it doesn’t work very well.

From memory? See, now, that was my problem. Always use reference material! And when you can’t find reference material that suits your needs, do what I did and MAKE your own reference material.

Ingredients:
- 1 Paper Towel Tube
- 1/2 Cereal Box (Cheerios, in my case)
- Judicious Amounts of Masking Tape

Tools:
- 1 Pair of Scissors
- 1 Utility Knife
- A little imagination

Results:
Not bad for a quick mock-up. :-D

The only problem? My productivity for today has taken a nose-dive (har har) because I can’t stop running around the apartment with this thing making airplane noises.

Shmup You! is a retro style game, mechanically, but not necessarily visually.  We decided that we desired a cel-shaded render style, to make the game look like a cartoon, complete with outlines.

But that wasn’t enough.

We wondered if we could make every bullet and beam that litters the screen a light source, and make the ships reflect all that light.  So we asked the question:  Can you mix cel-shade style with a Phong specular component?

Rather than construct the entire deferred system needed to render the final game, we constructed a forward render ’simulation’, in order to answer that question.  And the answer seems to be ‘yes’.

Hi, my name is Joe Pietruch. I’m a second-year grad student in RIT’s MS Game Design & Development program, and fill one of the two “Pi”s making up Imaginary Radius (It’s a math joke. Look at our last names and do some derivation! :-P ). On our capstone project, Shmup You!, I play the role of supporting programmer, UI designer, and mad artist (among many others!).

This is our development blog, and will serve as a way of documenting and tracking our progress and process over the next several months. We’ve already come a long way since December. At this moment the game’s design is 80% complete, we’ve iterated over several different game mechanics, and have started working on the technical design for underlying systems. We’ve conducted a survey of our target audience, looked at existing games in the genre, consulted with experts, and taken advice and criticism from everyone willing to give it.

Our hope is to add several historical posts to bring you readers up to date, and keep updating as we go along. Keep following us, watch us grow, and come this summer you’ll be in for a real treat!

Until then, please enjoy our logo!

Shmup You! Fighting Spirit